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Celebrate the Portrait Gallery’s birthday with this little beauty

Alexa Sommerville and Alice Stapleton

It’s always a big deal when the baby of the family grows up.

Our youngest national cultural institution, the National Portrait Gallery, is celebrating 20 years of bringing portraiture to the masses with a slew of events.

In honour of their impactful 20 years as an institution, the Gallery is hosting Little Beauty, a commissioned performance series for families. From the masterful Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image production company, the show will be performed by duo Adriano Cappelletta and Holly Austin and was made possible by funds donated by Tim Fairfax AC.

Karen Vickery, the Director of Learning and Visitor Engagement at the National Portrait Gallery, emphasises that the series will be loved by all ages.

“[It is] theatre which is highly visual in nature but also speaks of themes of life and death and everything in between with remarkable sensitivity and maturity, and in fact, their theatre although it is for children is beloved by adults as well,” she says.

Much like others in the audience, Karen says she “can’t watch it without a tear in my eye.”

First commissioned by the Gallery in 2010, Little Beauty returns this year to depict the desire to immortalise beauty in portraiture.

“The Portrait Gallery decided to get together with the Theatre of Image and to commission a work from them responding to the collection of portraiture here, and to do so in a way in which we can both entertain and educate our audiences, especially our younger audiences which is a big part of what we do.”

The free performances last around 45 minutes each and are sure to delight kids and big kids alike.

Karen explains that Austin and Cappelletta’s skills and abilities as actors perfectly suited the material while choreographer Julia Cotton was tasked with designing movement for this piece which, although it does have words, it is largely movement based.

“I knew this was a stellar team right from the start, under Kim’s direction and his vision.”

It took months to create the complex theatrical experience, with so much material being created and so much needing to be trimmed. Karen says it was months of finding and picking from the best and deciding “what tells the story that you want to tell and what explores the themes that you want to explore most effectively. A lot of it is a process of generating material and then editing it.”

20 years young, The National Portrait Gallery was the brainchild of Gordon and Marilyn Darling, who wanted to emulate what the US and UK already had in the way of museums dedicated to portraiture. Now home to many iconic works, including Howard Arkley’s striking portrait of musician Nick Cave and Deborah Mailman as captured by Evert Ploeg, the collection features only pieces of Australians considered significant in their field of endeavour.

The Gallery’s 20th birthday celebrations line up with older siblings Parliament House and the National Library of Australia’s respective 30th and 50th anniversaries, so don’t miss this chance to celebrate some of our most culturally impactful institutions.

the essentials

What: Little Beauty, a free show in honour of the Portrait Gallery’s 20th anniversary
When: Until Sunday 22 July
Where: National Portrait Gallery
Website: portrait.gov.au/calendar/little-beauty


Alexa Sommerville

Canberra raised Alexa Sommerville has almost completed her Bachelor of Communication in Journalism degree. After five months on exchange in the UK, Alexa fell in love with solo travel and has mastered the art of daydreaming either about her next getaway or her next meal. She enjoys watching health documentaries, online shopping and old-school film photography, but not as much as she does annoying her mother by using every ingredient in the pantry to bake her latest healthy food obsession. Alexa hopes one day to be writing about traveling, or eating, or writing while she travels and eats. More about the Author


Alice Stapleton

Alice Stapleton is a born and bred Canberran woman and soon to be graduate from the University of Canberra with a Bachelor of Journalism. With the world in her hands and a whole lot of life to live, Alice spends her spare time outside of studying and working in hospitality looking for new adventures and opportunities to explore her creative side. More about the Author

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